So in Part 1 of this series of posts I explained that evangelism is essentially sharing the core parts of my faith, in varieties of contexts with confidence in who God is, and who he has made me to be. Today I would like to share about how evangelism changes people from the inside out, involves suffering, and can fit together within a framework of justice for the common good.
First, evangelism is sharing what has changed in your life since you’ve put your faith in Christ. If behaviors, attitudes, and values are reflecting the transformation you’re giving in a gospel message, then people will see and hear how you “practice what you preach.” Thankfully, if we are pursuing Christ and striving to follow his word, the Holy Spirit is at work in us to sanctify us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2). You need to be able to relate that believing, trusting, and living in Christ is a process- as well as a specific point where you’ve turned your life’s ambitions from pleasing yourself to pleasing Christ. This is the concept of “repentance”, which literally means to turn around and change one’s mind.
Second, we need to recognize that just like the early church, there are many Christians today who are persecuted and suffering for sharing the gospel. While this is very unjust and goes against our Western mindset of freedom, we need to recognize that the world is overall a dangerous place to worship, confess, and proclaim the name of Christ. The devil is bent on destroying those who would bring God’s life-changing message of hope. So don’t be surprised if you get a verbal tongue-lashing or reprimands for your faith. Pray for those who are being persecuted, that it would only strengthen their resolve- as it did the Apostle Paul. Philippians 1 is one of the most unique chapters because Paul is able to rejoice even in his own discomfort. Theologian F.F. Bruce called Paul “the apostle of the heart set free.” Let us rejoice with others even in the midst of suffering that Jesus’ name would be praised (Matt. 5:16).
Thirdly, I believe that we have been living with a false dichotomy that evangelism and social work don’t or can’t exist together in the same framework. So many people have physical AND spiritual needs. We need to recognize and bless people to receive both- even when it is inconvenient or costs us time, money, energy, and a host of other things. When Jesus divides the sheep and the goats (Matt. 25:34-36) he is not going to ask how many people you prayed for or helped pray the sinners prayer. To those who inherit God’s kingdom, Jesus will say:
‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
This doesn’t mean that we don’t share the values of the kingdom of God or how to receive it (with faith of a mustard seed…Matt. 17). It means that we are constantly doing social business (work/justice) for the good of others while proclaiming God’s business: to love God with your whole self, love others as yourself, and have a right view of who you are as made in the image of God. People who proclaim a half gospel (whether only social or only spiritual) are missing out on the wonderful truth that Jesus wants us to understand: we are holistic people with a need for a holistic redemption and reconciliation of our bodies, minds, hearts, relationships, and souls that is full of grace, truth, justice, and peace. This concept is known to many as Shalom. You may not know that you are doing it (Matt. 25:37-39), but when you do the King will say, “‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me! (Matt. 25:40)”
Let us go out and share the hope of Jesus Christ in our daily context of life, with a confidence from God to demonstrate a Christ-focused life, enduring the scorn of others at times, but doing justice and righteousness to all who cross our path!
Read Part 1 here.